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Ajay Agrawal

What can we expect from Artificial Intelligence—and how can we harness its power today?

Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning Expert | Founder of the Creative Destruction Lab | Co-Author of Prediction Machines

Contact Ajay For Booking
Ajay Agrawal | Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning Expert | Founder of the Creative Destruction Lab | Co-Author of Prediction Machines
Lavin Exclusive Speaker

Humans are only so good at making predictions. But the AI we make to predict on our behalf, using all the perfect information we’ve trained into it? That’s on the brink of greatness, says economist Ajay Agrawal. Co-author of the definitive AI book Prediction Machines and founder of the Creative Destruction Lab—which boasts the greatest concentration of AI start-ups of any program on the planet—Agrawal’s talks illuminate the incoming realities of AI: how machine prediction presents us with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to optimize the way we do business, run governments, and provide healthcare—leaving us the space to be human where it really counts, in judgment and decision-making. It’s win-win. 

“A.I. may transform your life. And Prediction Machines will transform your understanding of A.I. This is the best book yet on what may be the best technology that has come along.”

— Larry Summers, Harvard Professor and former US Treasury Secretary, former Chief Economist of the World Bank, and former president of Harvard University

Named the engineer of a “Billion Dollar Breakout” by The Globe and Mail—Agrawal comes at AI’s potential as an economist and business visionary. As he shows in his keynotes, advances in AI and machine learning offer profound opportunities for human innovation. This isn’t about machines taking our jobs—rather, business leaders and entrepreneurs are in a unique position to enhance the way we all work—if those opportunities are acted upon. As founder of the University of Toronto’s Creative Destruction Lab (the “Silicon Valley of the North”), Agrawal’s talks unpack the full potential of AI and machine prediction. His first book, Prediction Machines: The Simple Economics of Artificial Intelligence is a must-read survey—and practical toolkit—for anyone seeking to leverage the disruptive, transformative power of AI in the coming decades.


Agrawal and his co-authors also describe the “Simple Economics of Machine Intelligence” in the Harvard Business Review online and were co-organizers of the research session on the Economics of Artificial Intelligence at the American Economics Association annual conference in Chicago. Agrawal is also a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, MA. 


Prediction Machines is a readily understandable guide to AI and the immensely consequential effects it could have on our economy, our society and our political system.”

— Robert Rubin, former U.S. Treasury Secretary

As co-founder of the not-for-profit NextAI, Agrawal helps young entrepreneurs and technologists explore new commercial opportunities that are a direct result of advances in AI. He is also a co-founder of “Machine Learning and the Market for Intelligence,” an annual conference on the business of artificial intelligence. In addition, he is a co-founder of Kindred, a company that seeks to build machines with human-like intelligence.


Agrawal has been awarded Professor of the Year by MBA classes at the Rotman School seven times, the Martin-Lang Award for Excellence in Teaching, and most recently the Distinguished Scholarly Contribution Award, among several other honors. He conducts research on the economics of artificial intelligence, science policy, entrepreneurial finance, and the geography of innovation. He serves on the editorial boards of multiple management and economics journals and holds a Ph.D. in Strategy and Economics and an M.Eng./MBA from the University of British Columbia. He served as a Visiting Scholar at MIT, London Business School, and Harvard University, as well as a Visiting Professor at Stanford. 


Prediction Machines is a must-read for business leaders, policymakers, economists, strategists, and anyone who wants to understand implications of AI on designing business strategies, decisions, and how AI will impact our society. Read this book and learn from the best!”

Ruslan Salakhutdinov, Carnegie Mellon Professor and Director of AI Research at Apple

Prediction Machines achieves a feat as welcome as it is unique: a crisp, readable survey of where artificial intelligence is taking us separates hype from reality, while delivering a steady stream of fresh insights. The key is that the authors view AI’s life-changing developments through the lens of economics vs technology—and thus speak in a language top executives and policymakers will understand. Every leader needs to read this book.”

Dominic Barton, Global Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company

“This book makes artificial intelligence easier to understand by recasting it as a new cheap commodity—predictions. It’s a brilliant move. I found the book incredibly useful.”

Kevin Kelly, Founding Executive Editor of WIRED and Author of What Technology Wants and The Inevitable

Prediction Machines is a pathbreaking book that focuses on what strategists and managers really need to know about the AI revolution. Taking a grounded, realistic perspective on the technology, the book uses principles of economics and strategy to understand how firms, industries, and management will be transformed by AI.”

Susan Athey, Stanford Professor and former Chief Economist at Microsoft

“The current AI revolution will likely result in abundance, but the process of getting there requires deliberation on tough topics that include increasing unemployment and income disparity. This book presents frameworks that allow decision makers to deeply understand the forces at play.”

Vinod Khosla, Khosla Ventures and Founding CEO of Sun Microsystems

“This is the first book to explain the economics of artificial intelligence. It’s a must-read for every business person interested in this technology. I encounter so many people who feel excited but overwhelmed by AI. This book will ground those feeling lost by giving them a practical framework.”

Shivon Zilis, OpenAI Director and Partner at Bloomberg Beta

“What does AI mean for my business? Read this book to find out”

Hal Varian, Chief Economist, Google

“AI’s the most transformative technology of our era. Agrawal, Gans, and Goldfarb not only understand its essence, but also deliver deep insights into its economic implications and intrinsic trade-offs. If you want to clear the fog of AI hype and see clearly the core of AI’s challenges and opportunities for society, your first step should be to read this book.”

Erik Brynjolfsson, MIT Professor and Author of The Second Machine Age and Machine Platform Crowd

Speech Topics

The Creative Destruction Lab How to Transform Tech Innovation into Business Success
How can you transform a tech breakthrough into a viable commercial success? This is the question that Rotman professor Ajay Agrawal considers with his program the Creative Destruction Lab. The main impediment to creating a scalable, financial business from a tech invention is a failure in judgement, says Agrawal. An elusive skill that can’t be bought,  judgement—or lack thereof—is why so many good ideas never materialize, even though there is a market for them. Agrawal has developed a way to overcome this failure through a combination of people and process. He gathers the shrewdest, sharpest minds—each who have built a successful business from scratch—to help advise research scientists on forming their own companies. The program begins with 25 early-stage companies, and every eight weeks mentors design business objectives and then either invest or vote them out. Though it may seem counterintuitive, Agrawal maintains that an efficient process of killing ideas is essential to innovation.
Today, the Creative Destruction Lab—which began as a bold experiment at the University of Toronto—has become a billion dollar pipeline for high-tech superstars, already making an impact on a full and competitive startup ecosystem. With a background teaching entrepreneurship, and a track record of accelerating companies, Agrawal is an economic leader to follow. In this talk, he draws on his rigorous methodology and proven successes to help universities, governments, and organizations large and small, transform ideas and seed projects into tangible innovation.
Artificial Intelligence
AI and the Shift of Power Understanding the Dominance of the New Artificial Intelligence
While many applications of machine intelligence enhance productivity, some applications have an even more profound effect: they shift power. For example, certain skills become more valuable than others, thereby shifting power from some types of people to others. Certain jobs become more important, shifting power from some occupations to others. Certain firm-level characteristics become new sources of competitive advantage, shifting power from some companies to others. Certain market characteristics become more salient, shifting power from some industries to others. Finally, certain country-level characteristics become more critical, shifting power from some nations to others.

When AIs simply improve upon existing predictive analytics and power structures are left unchanged, the strategic implications are limited. In these cases, success depends primarily upon well-managed implementation. The objective is enhanced operational efficiency. Decisions concerning when, where, and how to deploy these AIs require oversight from the COO, but not the CEO. These AIs are tactical, not strategic.

However, when the implementation of AIs lead to shifts in power, the implications for strategy can be significant. In this talk, business academic and machine-learning expert Ajay Agrawal explores state-of-the-art machine intelligence in several domains against the backdrop of power. How are these technological advances poised to impact jobs, markets, and nations via strategies for deploying capital, allocating labour, competing for customers, and enhancing society? And what can we do about it?
Our Automated Future Learning to Adapt—and Thrive—in the Era of Intelligent Machines

Artificial intelligence has been with us for decades. But today’s machines are gaining the ability to learn from data and make sophisticated predictions—more cheaply, and more accurately, than human beings. Like the advent of the Internet and the dot-com explosion, machine learning is set to affect foundational changes to our lives (think driverless cars—but that’s just the beginning). From navigation to the Internet of Things, manufacturing to agriculture, health care to the robotic workers set to replace even top-level positions, deep learning will open as many doors as it will close. And to understand these shifts, experts turn to Ajay Agrawal. A leading authority in AI, the co-author of Prediction Machines—and, as a business speaker, a great explainer of complex economic forces—he translates the sweeping power of machines and breaks down why it all matters. How can we take advantage of the growing market for AI? How can we allocate capital and investments today to best prepare for tomorrow? How do we prepare for the disruptions—to long-standing industries, to millions of jobs, and to age-old notions about work, employment, and leisure—that will result? No matter who you are or where you work—a company, an investor, a university or government—Agrawal will help you adapt, and thrive, throughout this economy-wide transformation.

Artificial Intelligence
AI, Robotics & Trade How Will AI Change the Way We Trade Goods and Services?
The potential of AI has taken politics, economics, and the future of technology by storm. There’s more urgency than ever to discuss how prediction, machine learning, and robotics can and will affect the way we trade goods and services, nationally and abroad. In this dynamic “double-header,” AI specialist Ajay Agrawal and expert on international trade Marc L. Busch deliver a collaborative keynote on how international trade rules are going to collide with AI when coupled with robotics. How will AI test the contours of existing trade? As they explain, so much of the infrastructure supporting our lives is oriented around humans, particularly within the domain of goods and services. But trade is set to shift and become more politically charged when challenged by the possibilities of automation. With clear and fascinating examples, these two experts reveal how AI has the potential to challenge, improve, and complicate trade in the global market—and how we can start addressing these things together. 
Gaining an A.I. Edge Becoming a Global Leader in Machine Learning

To Rotman professor, Creative Destruction Lab founder, and machine learning speaker Ajay Agrawal, many western nations have a problem with productivity. We’re educated—and we’ve got plenty of innovative ideas—but problems with scale and commercialization leave us underperforming. However, countries now have a new opportunity to compete globally—if we decide to take a lead in the realm of artificial intelligence and machine learning. In this keynote, Agrawal outlines the ways businesses, funding agencies, universities, and other institutions can pioneer research into A.I. and become global leaders. In other words, when inventors, scientists, programmers, and entrepreneurs are working at the very frontiers of deep and reinforcement learning, there are nearly limitless applications for business. If you invest now, and secure your global presence, you can transform your productivity and win on a world stage. Drawing on his work with the Creative Destruction Lab and the NextAI, Agrawal outlines how investors and business leaders can seize these new opportunities, capitalize on foresight, and reap the benefits of an early engagement with the next great shift in economics.